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Study Provides New Approach to Forecast Hurricane Intensity

UM scientists offer new information to help improve tropical storm forecasting
July 11, 2014

MIAMI – New research from University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science suggests that physical conditions at the air-sea interface, where the ocean and atmosphere meet, is a key component to improve forecast models. The study offers a new method to aid in storm intensity prediction of hurricanes.

“The general assumption has been that the large density difference between the ocean and atmosphere makes that interface too stable to effect storm intensity,” said Brian Haus, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean sciences and co-author of the study. “In this study we show that a type of instability may help explain rapid intensification of some tropical storms.”

Experiments conducted at the UM Rosenstiel School Air-Sea Interaction Salt Water Tank (ASIST) simulated the wind speed and ocean surface conditions of a tropical storm. The researchers used a technique called “shadow imaging,” where a guided laser is sent through the two fluids – air and water – to measure the physical properties of the ocean’s surface during extreme winds, equivalent to a category-3 hurricane.

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